CNP Expo: Wednesday Keynotes Feature Omnichannel and ‘Verge Culture’

May 21, 2014

CNP Expo: Wednesday Keynotes Feature Omnichannel and ‘Verge Culture’ The keynote addresses on Wednesday’s second full day of the CNP Expo centered on the merchant experience. Jeff Thorness, CEO of Forte Payment Systems, spoke about how e-commerce retailers can deliver a true omnichannel experience for their customers and Greg Selkoe, founder and CEO of streetwear site talked about building an online business and brand that depends on authenticity and loyalty.

Thorness, an engineer by training and CEO of Forte and its predecessor company ACH Direct since 1998, said his 3-year old daughter’s devotion to the cartoon Pepper the Pig was a recent reminder of the power of omnichannel. In order to hook up his satellite dish in a new home on a Sunday, Thorness needed a piece of equipment at Radio Shack. A quick trip online uncovered a nearby location that had the item he needed in stock. Even this level of low sophistication illustrates the power of omnichannel, he said. He got what he needed and was a satisfied customer. But, he warned, merchants implementing an omnichannel program need to have realistic goals.

“Merchants that are looking at omnichannel purely to boost revenue are missing the boat,” he said. “It’s all about loyalty. The revenue will come.”

While the first keynote was about leveraging different channels, the second featured an e-commerce pure play that has become a retailing success story. began as a cliché: founder Greg Selkoe started the business from his parents’ basement. In nearly 15 years he built a Website based on “verge culture” into $200 million in annual revenue.

Selkoe talked to and CNP Expo CEO Steve Casco about mentors, focus, failure and building a brand. He said he built his business providing brands that were hard for a small niche of urban fashion mavens to get outside of New York and L.A. But his success has not come without challenges, he said. A 2005 attempt to open a flagship store in Boston was an example.

“I learned I have no clue what I’m doing running a physical store,” he laughed. The main thing to understand when chasing exciting ideas, he said, is it will require patience. Not an easy sell in the digital age.

“You think it’s going to be quick to put up new content or start a cable network or a new e-commerce site, but it isn’t,” Selkoe said. “Everyone talks about the next big thing. The next big thing always takes longer than you expect.”